The West Bengal Wikimedians User Group has now completed 5 years since its recognition in February 2017.
2020 saw an unprecedented situation in the form of health-related catastrophe, global lock-down, economic shutdown, and restriction of movements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 was even worse. Delta variant of coronavirus stormed in a much aggressive way than the first wave and claimed huge amount of precious lives. Many Wikimedians from all around the world lost their families and dear friends. Members of the West Bengal Wikimedians User Group were no exception. Like almost every sectors from all around the world, the second wave took a deep toll on the volunteer workforce of the affiliate as it was extremely important to bring stability in real life from the catastrophe it endured. In spite of the difficult times, the West Bengal Wikimedians User Group saw more action than previous years.
The user group focused mainly on Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource and their comprehensive inter-connections just like previous years. Last year, due to the onset of pandemic, all the user group offline programs had to be stopped. But this year, some of the on-field documentation programs like Wiki Loves Butterfly and Wiki Exploration Program returned utilizing the window of opportunity while the COVID-19 waves subsided. This year, the user group also partnered with the Two Century of the Indian Print project of the prestigious British Library and ran Wikisource proofread competitions with them. The user group also continued to conduct national level Wiki Loves Monuments photo-competition on Wikimedia Commons and proofread competitions on Bengali Wikisource like it has been doing for last few years and reintroduced Wiki Loves Food photo-competition again. The user group has also held hands with affiliates and organizations from around the world to not only to collaborate for its projects, but also to run projects in an environment-friendly way.
Wiki Loves Butterfly (WLB), a digital conservation and field documentation project, was run for fifth consecutive years by a dedicated group of volunteers passionate about butterflies. The fifth phase of the WLB project got funded by the Wikimedia Foundation under the coverage of Project Grants, for which the mid-point grant report was duly submitted and got accepted.
In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in movement and difficulty to access different places of North East Indian states and West Bengal, the field documentation planning of the WLB team, strong informative network and collaborative approach with the local bodies and authorities has succeeded the team to get the prompt news of the slackening of restrictions in some places and quickly sent teams thereon to carry on field-documentations. During travel restrictions, the team continued to document in the local areas and even in home backyards. The team also co-organized a national level butterfly meet at Namdapha National Park at the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Unlike previous years, 2-3 teams were sent to different places in the same time to cover as much as places and utilize as much time as possible during the butterfly season.
“Through Wiki Loves Butterflies, Ananya has not only exponentially grown the number of images of her favorite animal in the public domain, but she has created a fun and accessible way to welcome new people, especially students, into the movement. Her project has taken flight and become a symbol of the incredible potential of rich media collaborations within our movement.” — Jimmy Wales
In response to the climate crisis, the West Bengal Wikimedians User Group has joined hands with other affiliates from around the world and committed to a cross-affiliate initiative to reduce the environmental impact of the Wikimedia movement. The initiative can be looked at as one of the first steps to implement Movement Strategy Recommendation #1.8- “While we grow and become more sustainable as a Movement, we will also align our practices to support the environmental sustainability of our planet.” The user group took part in drafting a document which is now called as Wikimedia Affiliates Environmental Sustainability Covenant and became one of the first signatories of the agreement along with other affiliates. These affiliates committed together to reduce their carbon footprint through a variety of measures like adopting travel policies that discourage kerosene-based flights taken by affiliate staff and representatives and community members over other means of transport and encourage use of public transport, switching to renewable energy for electricity consumption, supporting initiatives to improve coverage of the climate crisis on Wikimedia projects etc. As an affiliate with very limited capacity and resources and coming from a developing nation, the user group will have technical and infrastructural limitations implementing many of the clauses, but as before and with agreement with the covenant, the UG will keep committing to actively promote remote virtual events including conferences, workshops, meetups whenever a physical event can be avoided or deemed unnecessary. The UG will also continue to support projects which focus on digital conservation of nature like Wiki Loves Butterfly etc. There might be some more plans which can come up gradually as per commitment to the agreement. Thanks to the initiation and consistent push from Gnom without whom this covenant could not be materialised.
Two brief online workshops on Wikimedia Commons were conducted by Rangan Datta Wiki and Atudu targeting few photographers who are mostly focused on the biodiversity of Rabindra Sarobar, an artificial lake located in Kolkata. The participants were trained on how to upload photographs and categorize them. There were some uploads by the participants resulting from those workshops.
Wiki Exploration Program
116 villages, towns and cities
INR 134348 spent
Wiki Exploration Program is an initiative taken by the user group to document archaeological and heritage sites in different parts including remote areas of the state of West Bengal, India in a cost-effective way in multiple phases. For last four years, the user group has sent teams to remote parts of West Bengal with limited accessibility and documented many built heritages, which were not documented digitally anywhere on the web or were in the verge of collapse due to lack of maintenance. It is feared and might be very true that that the user group Wiki Exploration documentation of some of the monuments might be the last documentation of the built structure, as they might be destroyed completely or reconstructed to something completely new in future. Last year, COVID-19 pandemic compelled to cancel all exploration activities because of complete lockdown of movements, but considering the extreme importance of the project, we had no choice but to resume the program again as soon as the pandemic wave started to subside. This year, the project lead Amitabha Gupta was asked to request for a separate rapid grants specifically for this project so that he can run it in a more effective way than before. Thankfully the grant request was accepted. In this grants period, Amitabha Gupta has explored several historical places in the districts of Nadia, Howrah, Dakshin Dinajpur, Uttar Dinajpur, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur, Purba Medinipur, Purba Bardhaman and Balasore which have been discussed separately below. He has also presented about how he runs this project during Wikimania 2021
Apart from field documentation to digitally preserve under-represented heritage and culture of the state, the user group also have tried to increase the media content of the national heritage and culture by arranging crowd-sourced competitions which run for the entire country well beyond the borders of the state of West Bengal. The user group continued to organize Wiki Loves Monuments in India photographic competition during the month of September 2021 for the fourth consecutive year in a row. There are two new updates for the competition this year.
This year a significant change was made to the event page, colorful boxes with short instructions were placed instead of long texts which were there in previous years. The page used to navigate through the list of monuments were also changed significantly. Instead of navbox based lists used in previous years, which sometimes felt over-crowded and difficult to navigate, were changed to static map based navigation. Thanks to KCVelaga from the Wiki_Loves Monuments international team, who has created maroon colored maps of country and states in svg format which were used in the navigation.
Thanks to Lokal_Profil, The Monuments database has included the lists of Indian monuments from Wikimedia Commons this year, which will help a bot to crawl more Indian monuments than before to do regular maintenance works. There are still some bugs to resolve though.
This year, 747 photographers uploaded 5,139 images in total, out of which 129 distinct images i.e. 2.51% of total images are used in different Wikimedia sites till now. 84% of all the uploaders were new users. The ten winners were selected by the respected jury team within deadline. This year, prizes were also declared for the photographer with highest number of uploads and also for the photograph of an monument located in West Bengal which gets into top 10 of the national contest. The user group designed the prizes and sent the promised gift vouchers, swag materials and digital certificates to the winners. The user group will continue to organize this competition again in 2022.
The user group organized a month long public photo competition named Wiki Loves Food 2021 in India on Wikimedia Commons from 15th March 2021 to 14th April 2021. Wiki Loves Food photo competition was first organized by Wikimedia India in 2015. Although it gained significant traction from photographers, it was not organized again for some reason. So, the user group decided to revive it again this year. The objective of this competition was to develop and improve the quality and quantity of pictures of various cuisines found from all over India. A promotional video was created and run on social media to gain attraction from individual or groups of food photographers. In this competition, 3,529 images were uploaded, out of which 137 distinct images i.e. 3.88% of total images are used in different Wikimedia sites till now. The top ten winners were selected by the respected jury team within deadline. The user group designed the prizes and sent the promised gift vouchers and digital certificates to the winners. There are plans to run this competition again in 2022.
Two Centuries of Indian Print project of the British Library
The Two Centuries of Indian Print (2CIP) project of the British Library (BL) digitizes rare books from its South Asian printed books collection. Months of collaborative talks led them to upload high quality scans of those books on Wikimedia Commons. The user group worked on the next steps like renaming files, indexing, metadata related work on Wikidata, linking WIkidata items with corresponding files and index pages etc. and organized two proofread competitions on Bengali Wikisource focusing on these books. A python script was developed by Mahir256 to easily download books scanned by 2CIP which were stored on the BL website as IIIF manifest and convert them to PDF files. The detailed on-wiki documentation of the GLAM collaboration can be found here.
March-April proofread competition
West Bengal Wikimedians User Group proposed to run a proofread competition based on the uploaded books, which 2CIP officials readily agreed. Based on the collaboration, the user group organized a month long proofreading contest on Bengali Wikisource from 15th March 2021 to 14th April 2021. Tderrick, the Digital Curator for the 2CIP project wrote an introductory blog post on the British Library website. 27 books uploaded by Tderrick were selected for the participants to proofread. 17 people enrolled and 16 people actually participated in the contest proofreading 2621 pages in total. After the competition ended, necessary information to distribute the prizes from the top 5 contributors was collected. 2CIP officials sent digital certificates to all of them with logos of British Library, the user group and Bengali Wikisource. The user group sent t-shirts, books, germ protection kits, coffee mugs to respective winners residing in India.
September-November proofread competition
Another 3-months long proofread competition on Bengali Wikisource, which started from 1st Spetember 2021 and ended on 30th November 2021, was organized by the user group in collaboration with the 2CIP. Unlike the March-April competition, this one saw fewer participants and winners. Only 12 people enrolled, 15 people actually participated in the event to proofread 2,848 pages, out of them only 2 people crossed the threshold of proofreading 500 pages to win prizes. Prior declaration about the legal constraints to send prize to winners residing outside India, competition running during the festive season, series of proofread competitions this year leading to exhaustion among the competition participants might be the reasons behind the low turnout. But, the low number of participants led the participants follow lesser errors and higher quality than before and also gave a breathing space for the organizers to clear maintenance backlogs to a certain extent. The winners were contacted to gather necessary information so that the assured prizes from both the user group and the British Library could be sent to them.
Wikidocumentaries is a project by Open Knowledge Finland, which combines different aspects of a topic from different platforms including Wikipedia, Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, FlickR, Europeana, OSM etc. into one place and provides a comprehensive display of knowledge to the readers. The West Bengal Wikimedians User Group has engaged with the Wikidocumentaries project for more than 2 years now in following ways.
The tables listing monuments in Wiki Loves Monuments in India competition have been providing a Wikidocumentaries links for each monuments for the last 2 years, using which photographers can upload photographs directly from Wikidocumentaries into the competition.
WikidataCon 2021 also had a presentation showcasing the above collaborations and some idea-level ambitious discussions to integrate Wikisource with Wikidocumentaries in near future. In 2021, recognizing these ongoing collaborations, the West Bengal Wikimedians User Group has been announced as a partner of Wikidocumentaries project along with different open knowledge organizations, GLAM institutes and academic institutions of Finland. This partnership would have not been possible without active support from Susannaanas of the Wikidocumentaries team.
History and Legacy
Rabimas proofread competition
6006 proofread pages
43 transcluded books
INR 4302 spent
The user group organized a 3-months long proofreading contest on Bengali Wikisource from 9th May 2021 to 8th August 2021 celebrating the occasion of the birth and death anniversary of Nobel laureate author Rabindranath Tagore. This was the third iteration of the same event which happened last year. 52 books written by Tagore were selected for the participants to proofread, 4 of them were provided by the Two Centuries of Indian Print project of the British Library. 15 people enrolled and 22 people actually participated in the contest proofreading 6006 pages in total. Till now, 43 books included in the competition have been transcluded. The promised prizes were designed by the user group and sent to the winners along with the digital certificates.
Indic Wikisource Proofreadathon - Bengali Wikisource version
2792 proofread pages
12 transcluded books
INR 0 spent
CIS-A2K organized a 15-days long proofread contest from 15th August 2021 to 31st August 2021 on all Indic language Wikisource projects. West Bengal Wikimedians User Group decided to co-organize it locally only for Bengali Wikisource. 15 books were selected for the competition. 13 people enrolled, and 15 people actually participated in the contest proofreading 2,792 pages in total. 12 books has been transcluded so far. The prizes were taken care of by CIS-A2K officials for all particiapting Wikisource communities including Bengali Wikisource winners.
23 January 2022 marked the 125th birth anniversary of Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose, an important personality in both Bengali and Indian history. The user group conducted a series of Wikimedia events and activities between 23 January 2021 and 23 January 2022 for this occassion to improve free content on different Wikimedia projects related to Bose, his life, and his work. On Bengali Wikisource, a year-long proofread campaign was orgniased which brough 11 Wikimedians from Bangladesh and India to proofread and transcribe 12 Bengali books, one video, and one audio. On Wikimedia Commons 669 files were uploaded, a major portion of which were audio files having Bengali pronunciation of entities and phrases related to Subhas Chandra Bose. Few historically important media files such as radio speeches of Bose and portion of series of documents declassified and released by the Governement of India were also searched and uploaded. A small museum located in the hills of Darjeeling district, which happened to be the holiday residence of the Bose family was also covered.
Book scanning program
The user group is spending some resources to scan books for Bengali Wikisource for last few years, prioritizing those books, which do not have presence on Wikisource or have defective copies. In this year, 30 books have been scanned with a total of 5437 pages. These books included few relicensed books by Prabir Ghosh, a rationalist from West Bengal, who has advocated against pseudoscience, astrology and mysticism throughout his life.
The user group allotted 10,000 from the rapid grants for infrastructure support to volunteers which were to be spent upon request from community volunteers. Two volunteers requested for setting up high speed internet connection in their home by purchasing wireless internet router and two volunteers asked for internet recharge, which were readily approved seeing their significant online contribution. The routers will be handed over back to the user group if the volunteers do not need them in future and will be re-allocated to someone from the community in need. The user group also maintains different other equipments which is being used on different projects by several volunteers.
From December, 2021, the West Bengal Wikimedians User Group and the Wikimedia Bangladesh chapter has inititated a conversation on building a thematic-linguistic collaborative network named Bangla WikiMaitree (translated as Bengali Wiki-friendship in English) focusing on Bengali language, culture, heritage and history. The network intends to build close partnerships among existing affiliates and informal groups working around these subjects and build new communities and groups in different Bengali speaking regions and/or regions having historical ties with Bengali culture and heritage. Bangla WikiMaitree is still at a stage of primary level of conversation and lacks intricate details for now but it has already been discussed both by the West Bengal Wikimedians User Group and Wikimedia Bangladesh chapter internally. There are ongoing discussions to develop the initiative in a practical way, so that one day it can turn into a thematic-linguistic hub in the region in future. For now, there are some plans to initiate few collaborative experimental projects in coming days.
West Bengal Wikimedians User Group conducted its third Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 15th January 2022 and 16th January 2022 online following Article 23 of the Bylaws of the user group. The projects and activities of the user group mentioned above in this report were reviewed and the financial situation was updated. New representative committee members were selected. Upcoming activities, future strategy and action plans were thoroughly discussed. The user group also critically discussed the new grants strategy of the WMF which has resulted into bringing new players asking for huge amount of money without any prior engagement with the community in the region before and how they can affect local community dynamics and spirit of volunteerism. During the meeting, the user group also issued an statement of concern on an alliance fund proposal from a non-profit company operating in the region.